UMass football has first day of practice
AMHERST — University of Massachusetts quarterback Andrew Ford admitted sleep didn't come easy Sunday night. Thinking about your first practice at your new school might do that.
"I don't even know if I woke up" Monday morning, said Ford, "I think I stayed up all last night. I couldn't get too much sleep."
Ford, a redshirt sophomore, was one of 24 players signed to letters of intent to join head coach Mark Whipple's Minutemen.
"It's going well. I'm glad to be out here with the guys and finally getting after it," said Ford. "We did a lot of stuff this summer. It's the first day and we've got to go watch the film to see how we really did."
Ford was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Pennsylvania in 2013, and comes to UMass from Virginia Tech via Lackawanna (N.Y.) Community College. He was recruited by Virginia Tech when he was the No. 26 quarterback in the nation three years ago.
Whipple and the Minutemen have four weeks to prepare for their inaugural season as an independent. Athletic director Ryan Bamford put together a schedule that, even if UMass were still in a conference, would be considered daunting.
UMass will open up on Saturday, Sept. 3, at Florida, and will play a slate that includes Southeastern Conference teams Mississippi State and South Carolina, three teams from Conference USA and a regular-season-ending road trip that will include games at BYU and then Hawaii on Thanksgiving weekend.
"The summer is always time to get us going, get us stronger and faster," said quarterback Ross Comis, the only quarterback on the roster who took snaps in a regular season game last year. "The coaches did a good job. We were excited to get out here.
"We competed. We got better for sure. I'm excited for the days to come."
The home slate will begin Sept. 10 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, when the Minutemen play Boston College.
"There are more athletes and they're bigger and faster" this year, Whipple said, when asked to compare this team with last year's 3-9 group. "Time will tell. We'll take it one day at a time, but today was a real good day."
In his first two years, Whipple had teams with more of a veteran presence on it. Last year's team leaders included quarterback Blake Frohnapfel, the team's top five receivers and four of the five top tacklers.
With a large number of young players, the veteran coach said the staff has been working to get the youngsters up to speed for the start of practice.
"In the last week, we spent the two hours we were allowed with the freshmen. I think that helped," said Whipple. "Giving those young guys an extra 15 minutes before walkthroughs, we were going to do it afterward, but we have extra time beforehand.
"They're freshmen. They don't know what we're doing — what the team is, what blitz is, the tempo. Now they see it and they can understand."
Whipple is beginning the third year of his second stint at the helm in Amherst.
"There were a lot more positives than negatives," said Whipple, "probably because I was up their tails a little bit last night. They usually practice well after I do that.
"It was a real positive day, and I think once a lot of these young guys see themselves on film, they'll see and maybe they'll think that we do know what's going on."
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.